Thursday, December 31, 2009

A great cache of early Trek concept art

A nice companion to our reviews of early Star Trek here is the website of Mr. Neal Ottens from across the pond in the UK.

Hit the link on the left side of the page for "The Original Series" and check out the great Matt Jefferies concept art, including rejected designs for the Enterprise and the evolution of the eventual final design.

Also present are some fascinating images from other periods of Trek - Star Trek Phase 2's redesigned Enterprise, early concepts for Voyager and DS9, and a look at the Cetacean Lab from the Enterprise D - mentioned once by Geordi in dialogue, but never seen on screen.

The Original Series: The Cage

Hello, everyone. I'm Kevin, Matthew's partner in nerdery. I'm here to post the inaugural podcast for Treknobabble and expand a little on what we are doing. Podcast reviews are essentially a commentary track for that episode or movie. We let you know when we start the episode, so feel free to grab your DVD or Blu-ray (we know you have them all), and follow along. If you can't, don't worry, we identify what we are seeing when we discuss it for the DVD/Blu-ray impaired. The other kind of review we are doing is text reviews, where Matt and I will trade off offering comment and critique of an episode. We would love to do a podcast for everything, but let's check the numbers...

80 episodes of TOS (including the pilot, The Cage)
22 episodes of TAS (yes, we are doing those as well)
176 episodes of TNG
173 episodes of DS9
168 episodes of VOY
97 episodes of ENT
11 movies

...for a total of 727 items of Star Trek, with each podcast lasting on average an hour. You know what, people? We have to work for a living, and no one has that kind of time. If we win the lottery, I promise you we will podcast every episode. Hell, we will have our respective living rooms rebuilt to look like the bridge of the Enterprise, and do the podcast in video form from there. Until then, written reviews will have to do at least some of the time. We will also be offering essays on Star Trek topics, and maybe even get a guest author on occasion.

So, the best place to start is the beginning. As a rule, we are following release dates, not production dates for the order of our reviews, but it seemed appropriate that the first podcast should be for the original pilot, even though it was not aired until 1988. So without further ado, here it is, podcast #1, The Cage.

The Original Series, First Pilot
The Cage
First Aired: October 4, 1988
1st of 80 produced
80 of 80 released

In this pilot episode, the Enterprise is captained by Christopher Pike, not Captain Kirk. The first officer is a woman played by future Nurse Chapel, Majel Barrett-Roddenberry and Spock has noticeably less control on his emotions. Following the path of a long-lost civilian freighter, the crew encounters an advanced species that control what humans perceive and feel. Can Captain Pike escape the horrors they concoct? Will he want to leave behind the paradise they could provide?

Matt and I agree that this is, top to bottom, a fantastic hour of Star Trek and a fantastic hour of television. Rich, textured characters and relationships spring to life without being over explained. The script respects and engages the intelligence of the audience. The actors turn in top notch performances, leaving the viewer to lament why Majel Barret-Rodenberry's first officer was ultimately scrapped. The special effects, regardless of budget, were satisfying and served the plot well. It was clear in every frame that thoughtful, talented people poured themselves into creating something they would be proud of. The only enduring mystery is what would possess a network not to pick it up immediately. Matt and I both handily awarded this episode a 5, for an episode total of 10, an excellent and portentous start to the series. Enjoy the podcast. It clocks in at 1 hour and 12 minutes and file size of 68MB.

Hello, How Are You, This is What We do

Welcome to Treknobabble! Very shortly, Kevin and I will begin posting our reviews of all things Star Trek - in both podcast commentary and in text form. We hope you'll bear with us as we get things settled (for instance, podcasts may be on rapidshare to start out - not ideal, but free) and enjoy our efforts, and we welcome any and all comments (well, not comments promoting discount sneakers or Russian prostitutes). We will also be posting more in-depth articles about various Trek topics, top ten lists, and so on, and we should have guest contributors every once in a while.

For this inaugural post, I thought I might post what Kevin and I agreed upon as our rating system for Trek. First, some assumptions:
  • Trek, as a rule, is better than anything else on television. Therefore, a Trek episode rated at 3/5 is better than the average "Show X" of the same rating.
  • We love Trek, but there should be something approaching a normal distribution of ratings. It wouldn't be terribly useful if we just rated things "Great" and "Really Great." Therefore, you ought to see more 3's than anything else.
  • Although individual ratings will be 1-5, we will combine our ratings into a single score that works out to 1-10 (or, really, 2-10, since 0 is not on the scale). So if you want to apply the following criteria to the added ratings, just imagine 1=2, 2=4, etc. etc.

So here we go:

5 – A superior hour of television by any standard. Excels both as science fiction as well as television drama or comedy. Exhibits high quality writing, excellent acting, and production values at the top end of available technology/budget. A definite contender for a “best of” list. Maybe 10% of all filmed episodes.

4 – A very good show with a few flaws. Excels in most but not all of the categories listed above. May lack a particularly strong sci-fi premise or, on the other hand, may have a great premise but slightly flawed execution. Perhaps 20% of all filmed episodes.

3 – An average show. Functions adequately as a character drama, comedy, or science fiction show, but doesn’t do more than one of these at once. Displays competent writing, acting, and production values, but doesn’t really stand out in any of these areas. Perhaps 40% of all filmed episodes.

2 –A below average show. Although this sort of episode may have one or two redeeming facets, significant flaws in one or more areas hamper viewer enjoyment. Even by the standards of regular TV, not particularly enjoyable. Perhaps 20% of all filmed episodes.

1 –A bad show by any stretch of the imagination. Exhibits very low quality execution in one or more areas. Very difficult to watch without copious amounts of alcohol or significant ironic jeering. May even call into question important aspects of Star Trek by violating logic and continuity. Perhaps 10% of all filmed episodes.